Press Box Perspective: USA Golf Has Claws Without Tiger

By Seth Rivello

For years, United States golf and the Professional Golf Association (PGA) survived off one man, Tiger Woods. Woods asserted himself into golf royalty by winning 106 times, winning 14 major championships, completing the career grand slam three times and accumulating over $110 million in career winnings. Woods had a killer instinct and when he saw blood in the water, he went after you.

Woods turned pro in 1996 and won his first major championship in 1997. He had a crushing swing that could drive the ball 300 yards plus, mixed with a pure short game followed up by clutch putting with his Scotty Cameron. Few (if any) guys had a game mixed with these abilities, which made the field easy pickings for Woods.

His reign of terror came to an abrupt halt in 2009. Woods and his wife at the time were involved in a domestic dispute which caused him to check into the hospital and be exposed for who he really was — a serial cheater and liar. With all this and nagging injuries hanging over him, from 2010-2017, he would only win eight more times finishing first on the money list twice, but no majors.

The PGA and U.S. lost the biggest face they’ve ever had. Woods was golf. With very little talent, the U.S. was fading badly. Young men like Martin Kaymer from Germany, and Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland were winning majors. Guys like Justin Rose from England and Adam Scott from Australia were starting to catch their second winds and run through majors. Luke Donald from England and McIlroy wasted no time taking the light away from the U.S. winning player of the year awards in back-to-back years.

The U.S. bolted back up into a powerhouse in 2015. Jordan Spieth showed he has some Woods-like abilities. He won two of four majors. The long awaited breakout of Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler happened. The 2016 season had big hitter Dustin Johnson winning the U.S. Open which was his first major. Jimmy Walker won the PGA Championship which was also his first major.

2016 was also Ryder Cup year. The Ryder Cup is held every two years and consists of the best U.S. players facing off against the best European players. Before 2016, the U.S. only won the event seven times in the past 18 events, their last win was in 2008. The thing that’s different from this group of guys compared to guys in the past is that they are all friends. These guys take vacations together, and when Woods played he wanted to rip your throat out and go home. This class teamed up and, with the help of five major winners, blew out Europe 17 points to 11.

2017 showed why the U.S. won’t be stopped anytime soon. Brooks Koepka burst onto the scene with his giant forearms and a U.S. Open win, his first major. Spieth posted a six-under day to take The Open Championship which puts him only one major away (PGA Championship) from a career grand slam. Then, 24-year-old Justin Thomas came out on top in the PGA Championship giving him his first major and fifth win of the season. Thomas finished the season leading all players in FedEx cup points, his reward was $10 million.

The most recent blowout win at the Presidents Cup versus the Internationals showed what kind of players and team the U.S. has. It’s not a one-man show anymore. Move over Tiger, it’s Spieth’s, Thomas’, and Johnson’s league now.